So it’s a new year, and, thank heavens, 2020 is behind us. Lots of interesting stuff coming this year, whether I manage to get across the Channel or not, because there are still loads of places I have visited that I have yet to feature on this site. However, we begin with a very important post that, although short, has been a long time in the making. This picture shows smiling Tommies at Fleurbaix in May 1916, in the weeks leading up to the Battle of Fromelles. Every photograph of men such as these, at least for me, begs the question, somewhere in the back of my mind, as to the circumstances of their fate? How many of these seven men survived the war? How many survived the upcoming battle? Did any of them live happily ever after?
For over ten years now, here at theBigNote, we have travelled Flanders’ fields,…
…and occasionally elsewhere, to remember, and pay our respects to, a generation of men and women who, whether abroad or at home, whether on land (sometimes beneath it), at sea or in the air, lost their lives during the Great War. But what of the men who went through the same hardships but were fortunate, some might say unfortunate, enough to survive?
More specifically, what of the men for whom the war didn’t end on 11th November 1918? The men who survived but would permanently suffer from the effects of their war service.
And what of the men who seemed to have survived only to find, later in life, that the Great War was still within them?
I have spent a long, long time considering how to cover this aspect of the war, because these are the men for whom there are no memorials, and if they have gravestones, I doubt if there is any mention of their suffering, indeed there is unlikely to be any reference to their war service at all. I do not intend, nor would it be appropriate, to reveal the identities of the men pictured in what will be a series of occasional posts, although I know the name of every one of them, but I will, perhaps, tell you a little about them where pertinent. So I invite you to imagine these same men, in the prime of their youth, smiling at the camera like the Tommies in the first picture, with no idea of where their future might take them, or how the remainder of their lives would be spent under the shadow of the Great War.
These are the men who came home.